Study Guide

Book of Exodus Family and Community

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Family and Community

So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. (NRSV 1:20-21)

Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.
And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses. (KJV 1:20-21)

This passage isn't just a matter of good versus evil; it's a loyalty contest. The midwives were loyal to God's will instead of Pharaoh's, and God rewards them with big families. That means continuity, stability, and power for these ladies. Sounds like a good deal.

She bore a son, and he named him Gershom; for he said, 'I have been an alien residing in a foreign land.' (NRSV 2:22)

And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land. (KJV 2:22)

Famous Moses quote alert! People have taken this one and run with it for centuries.

Sometimes, having kids means nothing if you have nothing to pass on to them. Moses has no status, no money, and no land—so his son gets a funky name that means "an alien there." It's like naming your kid Nobody.

You may tell your children and grandchildren how I have made fools of the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them—so that you may know that I am the Lord.' (NRSV 10:2)

Thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the Lord. (KJV 10:2)

Exodus is about the birth of a common culture. And everyone who sponsors common culture—musicians in music, politicians in politics, religious leaders in religion—wants to make sure it lasts. This is about more than just peace and prosperity. It's about creating a strong community.

At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. (NRSV 12:29)

And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. (KJV 12:29)

The tenth plagues is like the nail in the coffin because it corrupts the natural cycle of Egyptian reproduction. And think about the extent of this plague—it affects even the cattle! God sure knows how to show his power. The guy leaves no stone unturned.

He said, "A hand upon the banner of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." (NRSV 17:16)

For he said, Because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation. (KJV 17:16)

Today, if your kids choose a different religion than yours (or no religion at all), it's usually less catastrophic—i.e., no wars with the Lord. After all, in a place like the U.S. there's a place for every religion under the sun. But the ancient world was tribal. Sure you could defect to a different group, but procreation meant passing on your biases to your kids.

"You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments." (NRSV 20:5-6)

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (KJV 20:5-6)

God goes for the people's loyalty by promising prosperity for their children. It's a pretty intense promise, too. Your great-grandchildren could be paying for your screw-ups, but your thousandth descendant will still get some fancy SWAG if you're loyal to God. Hey, you can't argue with numbers like those.

"Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation." (NRSV 32:10)

Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. (KJV 32:10)

Sound familiar? This is the exact same phrase that God used with the patriarchs in Genesis. New covenant, anyone? This is the ultimate prize. Having your own clan was like winning the lottery.

And hey, does anyone else think that Exodus's God tends to do better with individuals than with the masses? Just a thought.

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